In the time of the ancient Greeks, a slave was not regarded as a person. The ancients believed that a slave had neither free will nor any claim to justice.
The early Greeks and Romans did not believe that a slave possessed the capacity for virtue. Plato believed that slavery was a natural institution. He reasoned that since nature ordained that some would rule and some would serve, slaves were just ordained by God to serve. According to Roman law, a slave was not a person, but an object or thing. Thank God, we don't live in a society like that today.
However, hundreds of years ago, blacks in America were enslaved as the property of wealthy landowners. As a result, they were not at liberty to make decisions regarding their lives. This lack of freedom was so unbearable for many that they risked their lives in attempts to escape to freedom.
Upon her successful arrival in the free North, fugitive slave Harriet Tubman remarked, "I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person now that I was free. There was such a glory over everything; the sun come like gold through the trees and over the fields, and I felt like I was in heaven."
Although legalized slavery has long been abolished, many people remain enslaved even today. Enslaved to fear, worry, alcohol, culture, dead-end jobs, drugs, infidelity, poverty, peer pressure, selfishness and the like. Author Chuck Swindoll gives the following analogy: "Every day another runaway tries to throw off the shackles of an intolerable life and make a dash for freedom. The alcoholic drinks until all the pain is left behind. The adulterous spouse runs from a dying marriage into a lover's waiting arms. The depressed executive slams the door of communication and flees to a world of silence."
Every Christian was once a slave, shackled by a sinful habit or lifestyle that kept him bound to the evils of a dark world. As a result, he ran away from God, following his own path instead of God's. As Isaiah wrote: "All of us, like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way." (Isaiah 53:6). But because Christ pleaded our case to a greater master, we are no longer bound, but free (I Timothy 2:5). With his blood, he posted the "bail" for our sins; he bought our freedom.
Upon experiencing life as a free woman, Harriet Tubman felt like a new person, and she wanted to share that feeling with others. As a fugitive, she returned to the South 19 times to help lead more than 300 slaves to freedom.
When we, as Christians, experience newness of life (2 Corinthians 5:17), we too should desire to share the gift of salvation with others who are still enslaved to sin.
The Rev. Johnny R. Allen is pastor of Sharon Baptist Church.